Monday, August 23, 2010

Weaning and Hunger (Or Lack Thereof)

It is about that time again.

Thing 2 turned one a few weeks ago, and we have begun the process of weaning. I am thrilled that we have gotten to this point. I am thrilled to be in charge of the weaning process (I understand that there are ALOT of moms who want their child in charge of the weaning process, I don't oppose this, it just isn't me) and I am thrilled that Thing 2 is doing so well overall. I think that has alot to do with the breastmilk in the first place. But I am slightly sad to think that it is coming to an end. Slightly sad but very much at peace.

When Thing 1 was born, we had a tough time. He was asleep so much. He would sleep all day and fall asleep during every feeding. I had to resort to stripping him down and tickling his feet to get him to stay awake long enough to eat. I wasn't making enough milk because he wasn't eating enough. He lost over 10% of his birth weight before he started gaining. The lowest he got to was 6 pounds 13 ounces. By three weeks he was just barely back to his birth weight of 7 pounds 9 ounces. I came to terms with it, I had to supplement with formula for his health.

The supplementation was not that bad, it was a few extra ounces a day after a nursing and thankfully when his 6 week growth spurt kicked in he got extra hungry and nature took over and we got off the supplementation. Life was good.

But when I went back to work when Thing 1 was 12 weeks old, everything fell apart. He started preferring the bottle over me. The stress of my job definitely was got to him. I started to have trouble pumping, and by the time Thing 1 was 4 months old he was refusing to nurse. I would nurse him for 5-7 minutes and then pump the rest of what I had and feed it to him in a bottle. At 5 months he cut his first tooth and proceeded to bite me constantly every time I nursed him. All my friends and family said 'tell him no, he will learn'. Well I told him no, then he would cry and 2 seconds later he would bite me again with a look on his face that said 'why are you doing this to me?' After a couple weeks of biting and a couple of instances of pumping blood (Oh God YUK), we parted ways and headed for the bottle. I kept pumping for another 2 months, dutifully 4 times a day at home and 3 times at work. But it wasn't enough. Exhausted from all the effort, I weaned him at 7 months and reminded myself that I did alot of hard work and my baby must have reaped some of the benefits. Still, it was a hard decision. And even harder to cope with the idea that I couldn't make it work. All of my friends had managed to make nursing work. They seemed to have these close intimate relationships with their babies that reminded me of any number of print advertisements for some mother's product where a gorgeous mommy cuddles against her baby's chubby face with the rosy glow of the setting sun as a back drop. Meanwhile I had this skinny Thing who didn't like my boobs.

When Thing 2 was born I was READY. I was going to make this work. No supplementing, no falling asleep, no schedules. I was ready. I prepared myself for endless nights, I didn't take anyone's samples anywhere, I got ready for cluster feedings, I said feeding on demand no matter what! I said no bottles before 5 weeks old and even then very few and just to prepare him for my going back to work. And wouldn't you know for all my preparations...Thing 2 came out hungry. It was that simple. My baby was hungry and so I fed him. It was glorious. It was easy. It was the second time around, so it didn't hurt at all. He nursed alot, but he nursed, so I didn't care. When I went back to work, Thing 2 didn't seem to mind. The only bottles he got were when I went to work. That worked out to about 15 bottles a week and about 35 nursings. I started to feel like this was going to work. I am pleased to say that my Thing 2 has never had formula.

Some people want to jump out of a plane. I wanted to have a natural childbirth, nurse my baby and have it be completely natural.

So now we get to the part that is actually relevant to my blog, so thank you to anyone who made it this far, especially any men, childless people or hardcore foodies that may feel like this had nothing to do with a food blog. Now that weaning is well underway and will likely be completed in the next 3-4 weeks, I just can't eat like I used to. Losing weight this time was more difficult because I had to not just lose the weight but make sure I didn't lose it too fast. I didn't want to jeopardize the nursing. Eventually I found the balance and it worked out well.

The bonus was that I could eat so much because I had such a hungry baby. Now it is not the same way. I am down to four feedings a day but he isn't into it like he used to be. He is drinking whole milk readily now and that finally makes me feel like the end is near. Now that I am nursing so much less, my metabolism is slowing down and I am stuffed every time I eat what I consider to be a normal meal. For the last several months I have been adding a few extra nuts here and a little more cream there to manage my hunger and keep up my milk supply. Now I have to cut back on all that and eat a more typical amount of food every day. Sorry if you see the recipes on The Tale of Promise going low cal. I am NOT gaining this weight back.

When I eat too much I feel tired and sluggish. It is partly the food: good quality food makes me feel better than poor quality food, but even too much good quality food can make me feel gross. In In Defense of Food Michael Pollan talks about cultures that promote leaving the table 80% or 85% full, or even less! I am doing alot of meditating on this right now as I need to recultivate the willpower to limit what I eat.

I am trying to find that beautiful balanced place between hungry and full. The French would say 'Ca Suffit' or literally translated 'That Suffices'. (For all your high school francophones, 'Je suis plein' actually is a slang way of saying 'I am pregnant' not 'I am full') And this phrase is one way of viewing what is a cultural belief to eat enough without eating too much. Is it possible for me to find the amount which satisfies my hunger and stop there and walk away?


  1. That is the million dollar question that I struggle with every day! If you find the magic answer please share! :)

  2. I loved this post! It's so beautiful! Thanks for sharing your journey. You are doing wonderfully! I'm so glad it's easier the second time around.

    On the food front: I find that food is really tied to emotional satisfaction for me, and I think probably for a lot of other people as well. Because of that, I find it helpful to put food in smaller plates or bowls when I eat: if I eat a WHOLE bowl of ice cream, but it's a tiny salsa bowl, I somehow feel emotionally satisfied (because I had a whole bowl!), just as if I had a big bowl, but without the extra calories. I also find that I tend to snack after dinner, and the calories end up being a significant portion of my daily intake - one of the things that worked for me the last time I weaned (my Thing 1) was cutting out food after dinnertime altogether - it was almost like taking out a meal, and I really didn't need it anyway. Good luck! I'm rooting for you. :)

  3. I think that nursing and weaning have everything to do with a food blog, and are totally relevant! And I agree with Abbi - I've found that using smaller plates and bowls makes a big difference in my perception of how much I'm eating and whether feel full.